The WWE changing the character of a wrestler is certainly nothing new. Eddie Fatu made his wrestling debut in the forgettable tag team Three Minute Warning, whose claim to fame was being Eric Bischoff’s hired muscle, only to re-emerge months later as the savage Samoan beast Umaga.
Dustin Rhodes began his career as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes, but found greater success in WWE as Goldust. Neither Fatu nor Rhodes, however, dealt with what Lord Tensai is dealing with right now, and that is the fans constantly reminding him of his old gimmicks.
Consider this. Three-minute warning had only a year run in the WWE. Their main claim to fame was sneak attacks on unexpecting victims. Umaga looked a lot like his cousin, Matt Anoa’i, to the point where they were almost interchangeable. You really couldn’t tell one from the other.
In the case of Rhodes, his first stint in WWE was very brief and primarily served as Dusty Rhodes’ (his father) swan song in WWE. His WCW career, while certainly not a failure, was lackluster to say the least. Granted, he had decent feuds with the likes of Rick Rude and Arn Anderson, but it was during a time when WCW was at a low both in terms of finances and television ratings.
Now, let’s take a look at Matt Bloom, aka Albert, aka A-Train, aka Lord Tensai. Before making his pilgrimage to Japan and becoming the quality wrestler he is today, Bloom had a WWE in-ring career that spanned over five years during the WWE’s Attitude era, the most lucrative era in WWE history. While Albert was certainly no main eventer, he is a recognized person from that era. His look is distinct: a 360-pound bald dude with unique piercings and tattoos.
WWE did not make a mistake in hiring Bloom back. Bloom went to Japan and honed his craft under the name Giant Bernard. He earned his way back into the company.
Where WWE made biggest mistake with Bloom is renaming him Lord Tensai. When I first heard that Bloom was making his return to WWE, I immediately knew he would be the victim of “Albert” chants.
Albert, or A-Train, is a former WWE Intercontinental Champion. He was a part of Team Lesnar, wrestled in four WrestleManias (a couple were Heat matches, but still) and feuded with the Undertaker in a high-profile feud, and ultimately wrestling him with Big Show in a handicap match at WrestleMania XIX and again at SummerSlam 2003.
Am I saying that Albert is one of the great all-time superstars? Not at all. What I am saying, however, is that people remember who Albert is. For WWE to bring him in and start calling him Lord Tensai without giving a thorough explanation of how he came to be is insulting to the fans' intelligence.
Also, the “Lord Tensai” gimmick is a little cartoony itself. Matt Bloom is not Japanese. He is a white guy from Peabody, Mass. I understand that he’s worked in Japan for the last eight years, but that doesn’t turn him into a Japanese guy. This is no different than when Slick took the One Man Gang to (ahem) “deepest, darkest Africa” and renamed him Akeem, complete with a dashiki, African garb and jive talk that I promise no tribe in any African country is familiar with.
It is my hope that WWE ends this Lord Tensai stuff sooner rather than later and goes back to calling him Albert or A-Train. Doing this will eliminate the mocking chants of the fans, who are going to continue reminding Bloom of his past. The Albert chants are not relegated to just the so-called “hardcore wrestling crowds” like Chicago and New York.
This past Monday, Detroit, a city not known for its hardcore wrestling fans, chanted "Albert." If you watched WWE in the 90’s, you probably know who Albert is.
There have been plenty of guys who have changed their gimmicks and kept their names. Shane Douglas started out as a surfer/skateboarding tool box and later became the Franchise. Rick Martel went from French-Canadian pretty boy to arrogant male supermodel. Jeff Jarrett went from country music star to country rebel. Stunning Steve Austin became Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The bottom line is, Albert does not have to be “Lord Tensai” in order to have a career resurgence. There have been plenty of wrestlers who have kept their known names and flourished. By nature, WWE fans like being rebellious and going against the grain. To eliminate the power of the “Albert” chants, just change Bloom back to Albert.